Athletes have developed personal characteristics that contribute to success in their sport, but these same characteristics dictate success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering ,Math). Athletes work in teams, devote time to study strategies and plays, have discipline, determination, confidence and intelligence. Student athletes today use time management skills to comply with the numerous NCAA policies and procedures that govern competition in sports. To be successful in biomedical science also requires teamwork, study teams and group projects. Early and often teamwork experiences translate into easier transitions into work and professional environments where teams are the norm. Even in the face of defeat, athletes don't give up. This type of discipline and determination is also important in science. Pharmaceutical scientists conduct experiments over and over until they find the right formula for a drug to treat a particular disease. Biomedical engineers are determined to design and develop devices that surgeons use in orthoscopic procedures and knee replacements. Athletes apply physics and theory when they perform their sports using physical activity, offensive and defensive strategies. Athletes win medals and trophies; so do scientists. Have you heard of the Nobel Prize? Did you know that Nobel prizes are awarded in biomedical sciences (physics, chemistry, physiology, & medicine); and that the recipients receive a gold medal, diploma, and money (US $1.2 million)? There are numerous prizes in science but frankly only scientists know about them.
So, why don't we see more athletes in STEM? Do coaches and advisors steer them away from majors because the labs take place during practice? Do parents and friends have low expectations because they perceive athletics as “easy” and STEM as “hard”? Athletes should be encouraged to fulfill their career dreams even if they excel in extra curricular activities. It makes them well rounded, team oriented, disciplined, determined and competitive; skills that also spell success in the biomedical sciences. And, it provides a productive and fulfilling life after sports. The steps to accomplish both athletics and STEM requires better information and strategic planning. Chemistry and other science courses requiring labs can be taken in the summer; research experiences can be also be integrated into the academic plan. Because, who better to develop the scientific discoveries and conduct the research to treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy resulting from sports injuries? Or design the equipment to prevent these injuries from sports like football, baseball, and soccer? Let's encourage athletes to use their full physical and intellectual abilities and skills, expose them to the myriad of opportunities in biomedical science. Who knows, he/she may win an Olympic medal and a Nobel prize.